The most surprising news from China this week was not the endless quibbling between women delegates and Chinese officials or President Clinton's latest waffling tactic in the continuing human rights saga. As a matter of fact, until this enlightening discovery popped up at the women's conference in Beijing, I was ignorant of this earth-shattering piece of news.
Apparently there are five genders, and I didn't even know it.
The archaic two gender classifications supposedly exist because they were created around socially constrictive stereotypical roles (and I can't think of any problem of more gravity and importance than one that is socially constrictive).
The solution to this socially constrictive problem is the addition of three new and improved genders, fresh off the assembly line and guaranteed to bewilder and amaze even the most astute politician. In other words, there are five genders now, so you'd better get used to the idea.
And why not five genders? After all, we live in a liberated age Ÿ we eat dolphin-safe tuna, recycle milk bottles and telephone books and do everything in our collective power to prevent the scourge of socially constrictive situations. In fact, why not share the wealth and liberate everyone, young and elderly, woper and maper (I'm assuming "maper" is the logical counterpart to "woper" Ÿ woman person Ÿ but considering the wopers who coined the term, logical assumptions may not be safe). We can start with the tripartite divisions of child, teenager, and adult, since these terms obscure the customary rites of passage from childhood to adulthood and therefore deny categories to certain groups. To prevent leaving anyone out, we should create these specific categories:
First, the infant, followed by the infant who talks back, the quasi-potty trained infant, and the Sesame Street child. This stage jumps suddenly to the phone jabbering adolescent stage in which the teen is so high from various perfume and hair products that his/her brain start to disintegrate (this results in the "Like, hi! I'm soooo totally excited about school because I bought this cooool day-glo backpack!!" mentality Ÿ some people never grow out of this stage). After the rebellious "get me out of this house!" stage comes the existential drunken stupor college stage, which in some cases is followed by the yuppie exec with inseparable cellular phone stage.
The rest is ancient history: the first job stage, reluctant parenting, mid-life crisis, New Age solutions to mid-life crisis, new job to combat drudgery of mid-life crisis, new spouse to combat drudgery of monogamy, child support wars to combat drudgery of financial security, the travelling retiree, the slightly older and more cantankerous retiree who has nothing better to do with his time than write spiteful, malicious letters to anti-Medicare Congresspeople, etc, etc.
This breaks down to 16 distinct age categories, not including the various sub-categories under the heading "mid-life crisis." Of course, you need not end with age Ÿ you can tinker with race, occupation, and religion to be certain that everyone has a category (just in case someone didn't fit into one of the five specific genders). Once we've all been boxed in and classified accordingly, we can join hands and cry freedom and sing good ol' folk songs about finally being free of social constraints.
My only concern about the new gender categories is for parents, who face some complications in the old birds and bees speech. But even in the reluctant parenting stage, parents have a last vestige of creativity Ÿ I'm sure they'll come up with answers to those inevitably complex questions.
And they can rest assured that they will be contributing to the greater good by expunging all socially constrictive norms. After all, boxing ourselves into more progressive social categories is what freedom is all about, isn't it?
Jessie Fillerup is a music education junior.
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